Duoduoka Skull Wall

The skull wall is near the Duoduoka Charnel Ground in the western part of Biru County, 300 kilometers southeast Naqu in Tibet Autonomous Region. The name "Biru" originally meant the "horn of female Tibetan yak", according to a local saga, a "tribe of female yak" once settled down here. 

The skull wall is a result of Tibet's unique celestial burial tradition. The Duoduoka Charnel Ground occupies an area of about 4,000 square meters. Earthen walls roughly as tall as a man stand on the ground's four sides. On the south and west walls, there are some wooden shelves, between four to five stories each, each shelf displaying some orderly-placed human skulls. 

There are two gates respectively on the west and south of the Duoduoka Charnel Ground's courtyard. The west gate is for living human beings, while the one on the south is where the bodies are carried in. The bungalow on the north is exclusively for the monks who carry out the religious celestial burial ceremonies, and inside the rooms are some religious scriptures and figures.

Beneath the courtyard of the charnel ground is a cellar, whose floor and walls are built of stones, and which stores Buddha figures, the Tripitaka (the three major parts of Buddha's teachings), and religious tools and sacrifices. 

In the center of the Duoduoka Charnel Ground lies a celestial burial pool of about foursquare meters made of small cobbles. On the pool's north stands a rectangular stone about 60 cm above the ground. The stone is used to hold the bodies in celestial burials. A pole more than ten meters tall with some prayer flags hung on top stands outside the charnel ground's south gate. 

The winter here can be extremely cold, sometimes falling as low as 37-Celsius degrees below zero. However, no matter how frozen the body is, following a night in the celestial burial pool, it will surely unfreeze the next day, thus ensuring a smooth celestial burial. Nobody yet can explain this phenomenon. This mystery has made the Duoduoka Charnel Ground even more famous, even attracting some people from neighboring counties to choose it for their own death. 

At the sight of this wall piled up of skulls, a property from a horror film usually comes to the mind. But it's no fiction. Together with the charnel ground (where the celestial burials are held), and the hovering vultures in the crystal blue sky, this mysterious world has always been an irresistible attraction on the ridge of the world - Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Artists call the Duoduoka charnel ground the "skull pyramid"; archeologists view the wall as significant in anthropological research; while the charnel ground's enigmatic philosophical and legendary glamour have greatly shocked the literati. But for Tibetans, it is just a way for them to have a closer link to nature and their Buddha.


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